When his team needed it the most, No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham turned in his first signature performance of the season on Monday and helped lead the Detroit Pistons to a win over the Utah Jazz.
Trailing by 13 points at the intermission, and as many as 22 points in the first half, Cunningham orchestrated a stunning comeback by scoring 18 of his career-high 29 points in the third quarter. In all, the Pistons outscored the Jazz 78-55 in the second half to pull out the 126-116 victory.
Cunningham finished the contest by shooting 10-of-19 from the field, including 5-of-9 from 3-point range. He also dished out eight assists to become just the fourth Pistons rookie to ever record at least 29 points and eight assists in a game.
With head coach Dwane Casey sidelined in the health and safety protocol, assistant coach Rex Kalamian led the team. He was proud of how Cunningham played, especially in the second half.
I’m really proud of his game tonight. He had a couple of turnovers that we’ll talk about tomorrow and I’ll show him on film but his 3-point shooting, 5-for-9, and just his playmaking and attacking late in that game were really helpful to us.
The career performance by Cunningham didn’t seem all that likely early in the game. He missed his first five shot attempts before getting a couple to go in before halftime. He responded by scoring 24 points on 8-of-9 shooting from the field in the second half.
Cunningham just continued to play his game, despite the slow start.
I wouldn’t say anything flipped for me, I just wanted to stay within myself. In the first quarter, I missed some good looks I feel like and they all felt good. I didn’t really lose any confidence in how the game was going to go for me from there. Going into the second half, I just wanted to try to add a little bit more ‘oomph’ to my game and I’m glad it turned out the way it turned out.
The Pistons made a concerted effort to get Cunningham going in the third quarter. They ran a few plays for him early in the period and that resulted in his best quarter of the season as the Pistons dominated the third-place Jazz in the second half.
With the performance, Cunningham has now scored 470 points through his first 30 career games. His point total is the most by any Pistons player through the same number of games since Grant Hill during the 1994-95 season (545 points).
Cunningham entered the season as confident as any player in the draft but it appears as though that level continues to grow each time he steps onto the court. Pistons forward Saddiq Bey said the team often talks to him on the court to put him in the best position to succeed.
Just talking to him and talking to each other throughout the game. We want to tell him what we see out there, what’s working for us and try to see how we can play off each other and help make other plays for the rest of the team and get us in the right situation. It’s good to see his growth.
The 29 points by Cunningham topped his previous career-high of 28 points set on Dec. 6 versus the Oklahoma City Thunder. He recently missed time due to the health and safety protocol but felt as though he was beginning to find a rhythm prior to missing that time.
The Pistons have now won four out of their last six games as Cunningham and the rest of the team appear to be back in a groove on the court. It could mean they are in store for a competitive second half of the season.
This post originally appeared on Rookie Wire! Follow us on Facebook!